When your body feels like lead and your energy level is next to zero, the last thing you want to do is contend with life. Fatigue is a daily reality for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers whose autoimmune systems are working in overdrive and depleting the body of energy. Fortunately, it is a burden you can lift.
Identify the Cause
When you experience an RA flare-up and find yourself drained, think about everything you did recently that might have triggered this episode. Consider factors like physical overexertion, stressors, sleep deprivation, and meals. Any one of these items can lead to fatigue. Knowing the cause will help you prevent future flare-ups.
Exercise Is Key
Moving your body is key to reducing stress, sleeping well, and building up energy. Choose exercises that are right for you; don’t over-exert your body to the point of an RA flare-up. You know what you can handle, and it’s okay to take a break when you’re exhausted. If you’re working on a project at home and exhaustion hits, enlist help from your family to complete the work so you can slow down. The success factor is moving your body everyday.
Establish Good Sleep Habits
Good sleep habits mean more than just laying in bed when you decide it’s time. Set a standard time you go to bed every night, and stick to it. Don’t consume any caffeine late in the day or drink alcohol immediately before bed. Make sure you eat your last meal at least a few hours before bedtime.
Keep your bedroom cool and dark, and turn off electronics. It’s tempting to look at your smart phone as you wait to fall asleep, but the blue light the screen emits actually tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime. Also, try not to nap during your rest breaks. Staying awake a full 16 hours will prepare your body to go to sleep on time.
Eat Healthy Foods
You know the drill – eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Avoid processed and fried foods and anything with high sugar and saturated fat content. Watch out for inflammatory foods like dairy products and Omega-6 fatty acids. Opt for anti-inflammatory foods containing Omega-3, like walnuts, flaxseed, and oily fish. Eating healthy means a healthier body, which plays a role in elevating energy levels and fighting off fatigue.
Keep Your Mood Up
Feeling down makes pain hurt more and fatigue more exhausting. Depression is common among people with RA, leading to the various causes of flare-ups and fatigue, like loss of sleep and lack of exercise. If you are feeling depressed, talk to your doctor about cognitive therapy and possible anti-depressant medication. You want to break the cycle of depression so you can focus your energy on exercise and other healthy habits, which in turn, will stave off depression.
There is no perfect cure for fatigue, but as you can see, it’s manageable and to some degree preventable. Don’t shy away from talking to your doctor about other ways to fight fatigue as well as controlling your RA inflammation.